1. bossfearless
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    bossfearless Active Member

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    To trans or not to trans

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by bossfearless, Mar 13, 2015.

    Having a bit of difficulty with the idea of making one of my characters transgendered. It's fantasy genre and the character is one of a set of twins who takes a potion every day to maintain his male gender. I'm worried that I'll slip up somehow and get some silly word choice wrongand wind up with an inbox full of LGBT-flavored hate mail. Then again, even if that happens, maybe it'll just draw attention to the series and add sales lol. They say there's no such thing as bad press, but they've probly never been on the business end of cis-hating transgender rage.

    Should I risk it? The character is really bland without this defining characteristic.
     
  2. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    I say go for it.
    If it's a major element of your character, then put it in. As long as you do it serves a purpose and you do it justice (ie don't put it in arbitrarily or make a disrespectful point out of it) I can't see why you'd have a problem.
    About the 'slip ups'...Editing will rescue you from the worst of them and as long as it's not deliberately provocative (such as calling s/he 'it' all the way through) I doubt you'll get a reaction.
    You can always put them in on purpose, as yet another device to illustrate the complex nature of living such a life or her/his confliction about the whole thing?

    Anyway, I'm intrigued so get writing and put something up for us to look at ;)
     
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  3. bossfearless
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    bossfearless Active Member

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    Well in this case it's fantasy genre so a gread deal of the "interesting " elements of trans life are smoothed over by the phrase "magic potion." Mostly I was just going to down play the whole thing and make it a non issue as far as he or his friends were concerned. At one point I know that his potion supply will get disrupted, leaving him stuck as a female for a while and that will be a major developmental arc for the character and his twin sister. But damn...I don't know if you've ever had a trans advocate start screaming about some ridiculously small phrasing issue (no, nothing of any real meaning just some nonsense), but you do NOT want to have to sit through that crap. They start screaming, every other person who's LGBT or sympathetic starts screaming, then the feminists join in and next thing you know everyone's forgotten why they're even angry and they just wanna cut tour junk off for no reason.
     
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  4. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    Story wise, it sounds awesome, but you lost me at "then the feminists join in".
    To be blunt, there are idiots for every label under the sun. Yes, someone somewhere could kick off about a particular turn of phrase, but extremists aren't a true reflection of the community - they just happen to be loud enough to get media attention that gives others a bad name. I'm a feminist but my label doesn't convict me, or permit me, to jump on bandwagons and berate people. Please don't tar us all with the same brush.

    Also, don't blow the reality out of proportion. I highly doubt you'll find yourself in the middle of such a debacle. But, if you're concerned you'll offend someone who is LGBT, then run your work by someone who ascribes to that title who isn't a militant and don't let 'what if' put you off writing it in the first place!
     
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  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd recommend against it. I mean, why sign for that sort of crap, right? They bitch about being excluded and marginalized and then bitch because we don't get every single detail perfect according to their secret code? Fuck 'em. And once you get the feminists on your ass, there's no escape!
     
  6. HelloThere
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    HelloThere Contributing Member

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    I would be more concerned about this to be honest. The only trans person I've met is my flatmate, and she's far from bland.
     
  7. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Transsexuals are human like the rest of us and are individually different. So long as you don't make wide sweeping statements about how TS people are this or that, you should be fine. I have written two erotic SM novelettes featuring TS character (under a different pen name) and haven't been bothered by angry activists.

    If you do get some outraged comments just ignore them. Every writer risks angering someone.
     
  8. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    I'm 90% sure this is sarcasm but I can't be sure.
     
  9. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    In any case I wholeheartedly support @BayView in this. I think it was a great writer who said:

    "If you want to write an interesting character you should first consider what everyone else will think of that character, then abandon your ideas if they seem offensive. Because that shit is, like, hard and stuff, man"
    ~Great Writer.
     
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  10. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I prefer to think of it as performance art.
     
  11. bossfearless
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    bossfearless Active Member

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    That's a very valid point. The character actually started out purposefully bland, he and his sister were little more than set dressing in one scene where they were very overtly average in all respects. His sister ended up getting a hilarious story arc though, which left her interesting and him still as bland as ever. So now I find myself struggling to make him stand on his own a bit, and the idea of him being trans kind of clicked into place as a need for him to have his own identity and not just be an copy of his twin. So Jasmine becomes Jasper with the help of daily potion doses.

    There's more that can be done with the character in the long run since this is the first part of a longer series, but for now I want to simply touch on this here and there to help give him more of an identity within his limited role in the current story.

    @Jack Asher I think the words of that Great Writer have moved me. Jasper is staying trans.
     
  12. HelloThere
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    HelloThere Contributing Member

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    Cool, cool, it seems like you've put more thought into it than what came across in your original post. Do you know any transgender people? I only know one, I'll give you what little insight I have if it helps: She is truly a girly girl, she loves makeup and hot guys (all she ever seems to talk about) Nevertheless, the fact that she is transgender has obviously played a role in her development as a person, and that's something she's very comfortable with. Despite the girliness, she did grow up as a boy, and because of how things are in the world that's obviously led her to form social bonds with guys from an early age; there's quite a nerdy side to her that I'm not sure would be there if she had grown up as a girl - but I don't want to speculate too much.

    I suppose, to summarise, "Transgender" shouldn't be a key characteristic of your character, but how your character has dealt with being transgender, and how being transgender has had an affect on their lives - that's the important stuff.
     
  13. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay - there are two parts to this.

    1. If you want to write a trans character, write a trans character. Doing this will require you to do a good amount of research, look at models in other well done stories on the subject, and check your material through trans readers or at least people who have a lot of familiarity there. I realized I would have to do this when writing an Indian-American as one of my lead characters, but for me that level of difficulty actually makes it more fun to write, and I'm sure it's going to get even more fun when I have to start looking for Indian beta readers. Lucky for you, transsexuality is a popular subject right now in the media and there are an increasing number of character models to start with.

    2. That said, if your character is bland without being transsexual, they will still be bland after you make them transsexual. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not magic bullets. Trans or not, you're going to have to get to know this character and find out what about them is interesting. Now, psychology is a starting point - so the inherent conflict that comes with questioning one's gender DOES add a lot of depth - but then you're going to have to go deeper into explaining what they feel and why they feel it.
     
  14. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay - let's unpack this...there is no way in heck you're going to "smooth out" the "interesting" parts of that narrative...becasue while your characters may exist in a world where there is less stigma, your readers do not. So even if it's "smoothed out" in-world, the very fact that it is "smoothed out" is going to be an interesting detail that your readers want to know about.

    Also, this is probably too trite, but if you write fiction, you're going to get screamed at by advocates of something. The very nature of the art is to challenge people's preconceived notions (often using absurd and potentially offensive hypotheticals)...that's what we DO. Write fearlessly.
     
  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    If the charecter presented him/herself to you this way, then this is who they are.
    This will happen no matter what you do. The LGBT community (of which I am a part) is not a homogenous structure. I hate the word homophobia because I feel like it's a double agent with the word phobia leading to people getting let off the hook because "They're just scared, man. It's a phobia." when it's really just being an asshole. Other LGBT people don't understand why I make such a fuss over that word.

    This part is the more worrying part for me. If the character is bland without this trait, then what is this character adding to your story, what's the purpose of this person, be they cis, trans, whatever? That's the first question to ask, in my opinion.
     
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  16. exoticfabric
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    exoticfabric Member

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    To go slightly off-topic, I wrote about a character that was a drag queen. When 'himself', his name was Raymond. When in drag, his/her name was Andrea. For the majority of the time, the character was Raymond, though for a considerable section he was in drag, thus Andrea. When in drag, should I refer to him as Raymond or Andrea? If Andrea, I would have to switch the pronoun and make things confusing. However, it is a bit weird to continue referring to him/her as Raymond when he/she is in drag and other characters call him/her Andrea.
     
  17. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    I like the pronoun switch. It offers a sense that the person has fully transitioned, and might even confuse the reader in a super artsy way.
     
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  18. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    This hits the nail on the head with my concerns. If this character is bland and boring without this feature, it almost seems quirky to add it just for interest. Now, if it is a core part of who the character is, then you should have nothing to worry about. Just remember, you are writing a fantasy, therefore your character should act and feel according to how "transgendered" people are treated in your world. It may upset some for not being realistic or depicting the emotional struggles of the real world, but that is a risk you may have to take as a writer.

    Now, if The world is much like our own, then your main concern with this character is to not make that the main attribute of this character. He is human (I think) like the rest and there is more to him than dealing with gender identity. You'll also want to explore the depths of the characters motivation and development. His relationships with himself his family and friends and society. What does he have to go through? How does it affect him? What are his fears and hopes?

    In short, flesh this character out as much as any other significant character and you'll be fine. Backlash will be a given from multiple parties, but that's to be expected with "fringe" writing.
     
  19. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    Even saying "cis-hating transgender rage" makes me think you're not going to able to write this in a realistic and thoughtful way.

    "I don't know if you've ever had a trans advocate start screaming about some ridiculously small phrasing issue (no, nothing of any real meaning just some nonsense)." This also doesn't sound like something a good writer would say. So maybe you don't agree with them. But the very idea that words carry weight and have power should resonate with you. And if you want to write about people, you have to observe and listen to them when they tell you something matters to them.

    (FYI trasngendered is not a word. This bothers me because I like people to use real words.)
     
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  20. Lilly James Haro
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    Lilly James Haro The Grey Warden

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    I agree with lustrousonion here.
    I'm not sure if you are just coming across badly or not, but what you have said on this thread makes it seem like you don't really respect trans people which is why I would warn you against writing a trans character.
    While someone will always inevitably not like your work, so long as you do research, listen to what trans people have to say and handle trans issues respectfully you should be okay.
    But just from what you have said, it seems you are making your character trans just to make them different and/or interesting and that you don't really have respect for trans people and that you aren't really willing to listen to them. For this reason, I would caution you against writing a character as trans because it may come across as offensive or not realistic, even if you don't intend for it to come across that way.
     
  21. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Have you thought about talking with someone who's gone through this kind of thing?

    I'm a big believer in researching things I don't know or haven't experienced, with people who do know or have experienced what I want to research. It always surprises me how many people do actually want to help and answer my questions.

    The worst that can happen, is someone says 'no' to you, in which case, just go onto the next person.
     
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  22. ZYX
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    ZYX Member

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    lustrousonion pretty much got it. If your attitude is "I want to write a trans character but if I mess up I know trans people are going to crucify me for it" you're not ready. The "ridiculously small phrasing issue" is made an issue because on a wider scale that phrasing has probably hurt them.

    Going off what other people have said, you need to make sure he has a personality outside of "trans twin brother" . Just work on him the way you would a cis dude, but factor in the experiences he's faced being trans. I'd definitely consider the sister's views on this.

    Finally, in terms of phrasing, I would say use "he" even when he's presenting female. If it's dialog and the character speaking doesn't know he's a boy, that's fine. But if you're going third person, use he. He's a boy, so even if he's dressing like a girl and looks like a girl and has to use his birth name, use the right pronouns. Names get a little tricky here, but I'd say default to his male name and only use the birth name when that sounds out of place. Don't misgender your own character. Other characters can misgender him but you as the author need to make it clear that the narrative treats him as a boy. There will be points where this gets super tricky, but with enough proofreading you'll probably be fine !
     
  23. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Like others have said, if being trans is the only thing that's not "bland" about the character, he'll still be bland even being trans.

    Likewise, not all of us are the same: some trans folk can be touchy, but most I've met have been very chill. A good friend of mine is trans, and he's really open and sensible, fully capable of discussing being trans without getting all emotional.
    In fact, in my experience, it's not so much trans individuals who are the most volatile, but some of the cis people who insist they speak for us. They can be way too over-zealous about "protecting" our feels as if we're some special little snowflakes who can't handle one wrong pronoun or some comment stemming from "non-malicious" ignorance. It's different when someone's being an asshole, but even then many of us would rather fight our own fights instead of having an army of cis people putting words into our mouths.

    That's my opinion anyway. Also, being trans doesn't automatically mean a transitioned individual. Many never transition (I haven't and probably never will for various reasons I won't go into here), some transition only to a degree (e.g. by dressing up to reflect their gender instead of their sex, adjusting their behavior, changing their haircut etc), and some transition to a greater extent (with corrective surgery etc). After all, we're all individuals (shocker, I know) and have minds of our own as well as different experiences of what it is to be trans.

    So I'd say if you want to write a trans character, put in the effort, talk to trans individuals, and make sure being trans isn't the thing that "unblands" your character because it doesn't anymore than making the character gay, Asian, Muslim etc.
    If you're not willing to do that much for the character, there's a chance he'll turn out bland or even possibly stereotypical, somehow offensive or whatever. It's not so much about what you do as it's about how you do it.
    Just my 0,02€.
     
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